October 20, 1942 – June 8, 1967

“Little did she know she kissed a hero.”

By his wife: Barbara Lupton

That line is from a song recently published for a hero of the 9-11 disaster, but I think it stands for all heroes, and certainly the courageous men serving aboard the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967.

How do I describe James Lupton, my own hero? I’ve been searching for the words ever since he was killed, and still I haven’t been able to find them.

Jim was born October 20, 1942 in Cedar Grove, LA, a suburb of Shreveport. He was the youngest of three, and what I remember most is the laughter in his family. His father, Clyde Knox (not Knot!), was very clever and quick with a riposte, and his mother, Louise, was warm and sweet and kind, and a great cook. The love in that family could almost be touched – it was in the air around them. His brother Billy has the same quick cleverness that Clyde had, and Nora Lou has an appealing funny charm all her own, with a singing voice that could have taken her to stardom had she been so inclined.

Jim and I met in high school when we were freshmen together in Science class – he was 14 and I was 13, with braces on my teeth. He sat in front of me and was always turning around and making jokes and making me laugh. He was sooo cute and TALL, even at 14! Soft, wavy-brown hair, and hazel eyes that danced with laughter. He was always making some excuse to talk to me and naturally I talked back…we frequently got into trouble for talking that year!

We dated occasionally through high school, but not “steady”. After high school graduation, we went to separate colleges. He spent one semester at Northwestern State, but the financial burden was too great for his family, so he joined the Navy in Spring, 1961. He started learning – he went to CT schools and studied intensely, winning loyal friends everywhere he went and earning the respect of his superiors for his hard work and diligence.

We married in October, 1964 – he was stationed in Japan at that time. We lived there for seven months and then were transferred to NSA, and had an apartment in Laurel, MD. We lived there for a year, and then transferred to Turkey. We only lived there four months when he was transferred to the Liberty. I kissed him goodbye and just a few days later he was gone forever, at age 24.

He was handsome, funny, warm, tender, smart, conscientious….but all those adjectives aren’t enough to describe the man he was. He was tenacious – if he wanted something, he went after it heart and soul and there was nothing he couldn’t do when he put his mind to it. He liked to build model airplanes, ships and automobiles, and every home we lived in had a room set aside especially for him, where he could have different models in various stages of progress, with each completed one proudly displayed on a shelf.

He was a fisherman, and enjoyed spending the day on a lake fishing for anything that would land on his hook. He would bring the fish home, clean and filet them, and we would have fish for supper! He was also a SCUBA diver, and president of the SCUBA club in Turkey. He truly loved the water.

He was not too proud to say he was wrong. He was understanding and gentle, always with that delicious sense of humor and a sensitivity which most men don’t seem to be able to show. He was active in our church (we were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when we lived in Maryland) and he always tried to live up to the very best self he could be. He led our small family in prayer every day.

He planned for our future, putting away a little every payday, buying savings bonds so that one day we could purchase outright a home for us and the children we hoped to have. He was generous with his praise and his love, and although sometimes he allowed his temper to get the better of him, he always apologized.

We all were blessed to have known him and better people for having met him. He was the best person I have ever known in my life. His death was a great loss and his life an inspiration to us all to try to emulate his goodness. And I will always remember the sound of his voice.

The picture with this biography is typical of his warm, generous smile and sweet spirit.

Barbara Lupton